When I’m discussing quantum physics in company of friends or presenting a course in quantum physics and consciousness, and I present the substantiated conclusion from the quantum physics experiments – especially the delayed choice experiments of John Wheeler – that we create reality by observing it, the common and very understandable reaction is often that people shy away from it because of its unimaginablity. As if it would imply that the everyday world is an illusion and therefore not ‘real‘. I answer them usually by giving them the metaphor of the rainbow, definitely not an illusion but a ‘real‘ phenomenon. But if you think that the rainbow above you is a material arc, then you are clearly wrong and suffering from an illusion.
The words “real” and “material” have become so closely linked by our upbringing that, for most people, they have taken on the same meaning. What is considered ‘real‘ is something that can be measured – so to speak – with a yardstick. If you can’t measure it, it is not ‘real‘. In this way ‘Real‘ means nowadays a permanent existence without the involvement of an observer. I wonder though: Are thoughts, dreams, fantasies not real? Are my thoughts not real as long as I have expressed them not in words, like I am doing here now?
A VR fantasy
To disconnect that engraved automatic link between the concepts ‘real‘ and ‘material‘, I propose now that you do the following simple VR imagination exercise. You don’t have to be in possession of a VR headset. A little bit of imagination will suffice.
Imagine then that a VR headset is ready and waiting for you on the table, including a pair of wireless earbuds. You place the headset over your eyes, plug the earbuds in …. and find yourself looking out over a plain covered mostly with fresh green grass, blooming flowers and scattered here and there a bush. Above you the blue sky with some white clouds floating quietly with the wind. Birds fly, and you can hear their songs. In the far distance you see an imposing mountain towering high into the sky, a super Mount Everest. It’s upper half is covered in snow and you notice wisps of clouds streaming away from the top.
Then you turn 180 degrees. Now you do notice that you are standing firmly on the top of a ridge overlooking a sea. Down below you see a beach where the waves roll in. Now you understand where that background noise came from. A sailboat is passing far away. The crew waves to you.
Now the reality question. Where’s that mountain you saw a moment before? Has it disappeared from reality? Does it still exist? You turn back again and there is the mountain again. Did you just recreate it from nothingness? By observing it?
Creation from non-existence by observation?
I do not think so. The image of that mountain was just not displayed on the LCD screen of the VR headset when you were looking in the direction of the sea, but its source still existed. It existed in the memory of the headset’s VR software all along, ready to be displayed if you turned your head in the right direction. The image of the mountain thus constantly exists as an opportunity to be shown and thus seen.
As far as I’m concerned, that’s exactly like the quantum behavior of the reality that we experience every day. The moment I look at the table before me, it becomes real through my observing. Before I looked at it, it did exist “really” as a well-defined stable possibility wave pattern in the quantum field. The larger the object, the smaller the relative deviations of its physical properties that are allowed by the quantum probability wave distribution. That is what makes the world appear so sharp and concrete to us with our relatively coarse senses. As far as I’m concerned, the world is ‘real‘ enough to be careful when crossing a busy road.
No creation out of nothingness
So, it is not the case that by observing we create something out of empty nothingness. It is already there, but in an unmaterialized form that leaves some room for deviations from the exact outcomes as predicted by Newtonian mechanics. That’s more room than you perhaps think. It has been calculated that after 7 or 8 collisions the movement of a billiard ball has become fundamentally unpredictable because of the accumulated and exponentially increasing Heisenberg uncertainty. Thus, the deterministic mechanical predictability of the universe, á la Laplace, collapses. That’s all. We are creators, but not free to create anything we want.
Is my computer aware? Would it mind being shut down? Sometimes you might wonder with your finger lingering on the off switch. Not likely, but still…..?
The PEAR Lab
The PEAR laboratory – Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Laboratory – was founded in 1979 by Robert Jahn, a professor of aeronautical engineering, along with Brenda Dunne, a developmental psychologist. In the PEAR lab, the special influence that the mind could have on physical devices, including electronic random signal generators (REGs), were studied in a variety of ways. Below is an example of the result of their influencing by intention REG experiments .
The three colored graphs represent the cumulative deviation from the standard expectation (the zero line) of the output of a REG in three test runs. The curved lines indicate the limits where the result is within the commonly accepted standard expectation limit of 5%. The red graph represents thus an clear case of the influence of intention. But apparently a reverse effect of intention is also possible (blue graph). Compare this with the behavior of an unaffected REG shown below. The graph hovers clearly around the zero line.
Psyleron Conscious Technologies & Research
One of the lab collaborators was Herbert Mertz who mainly dealt with the REGs used in the PEAR experiments. Together with colleagues and friends he founded Psyleron in 2005. Psyleron supplied affordable REG kits based on QRNG devices (QRNG: Quantum Random Number Generator) with accompanying software. With these kits everyone should be able to independently investigate the effects of the mind on matter. One of their more playful products was the Psyleron Mind Lamp, a lamp that changes color when the results of the built-in REG deviate slightly from the standard expectation. Be sure to read the user experiences on the Psyleron Mind Lamp page.
Herb Mertz’s book The Selection Effect is an account of his fascination with quantum number generators (REGs) and of his serious attempts in succesfully influencing them. He finds that he can indeed, but his influence evaporates as soon as the playful element disappears from his efforts and he becomes too serious in his attempts. What I want to talk about here is his description of an experiment where the experimenter effect seems to have played an important role. Herb opens his book with an extensive report of an experiment that certainly seems to belong in the category of special experimenter effects. It was conducted in 2013 by Professor Garret Moddel of the University of Colorado Boulder, one of his students, James Zhu, and Adam Curry of the Psyleron Company.
The Colorado Research Question: Is a Machine Conscious?
The research question was whether a machine, such as a QRNG, ‘feels’ coming that it is being turned off and shows this in its reaction. A QRNG is based on a quantum physics process and its output, a zero or a one is fundamentally unpredictable according to quantum physics. The only way a QRNG can ‘react’ is a deviation in the generated sequence of ones and zeros. Such a sequence is completely random, the probability of each bit – a zero or a one – in the sequence does not depend on the series of zeros and ones before it. The probability of a sequence of, for example, 20 consecutive zeros is less than 1:1,000,000. The expectation for the mean value of a random sequence of ones and zeros is 0.5. When the deviation from the expected mean value of such a sequence is statistically significant, you can consider that a QRNG reaction. Incidentally, this is exactly what is being done in the Global Consciousness Project. All over the world QRNGs continuously produce zeros and ones (the so-called EGG sites) and check in real-time whether significant deviations from the mean value of the bit rows occur and whether these are correlated with important global events. And it turns out that it is. Remarkable in itself. And ignored in many academic circles still trapped in a purely materialistic paradigm.
Many experiments have been conducted to test whether people do sense a negative event coming. Most of the time this is done by showing subjects, sitting in front of a screen, a randomly selected image five seconds after they have pressed a button. The image shown can be neutral or emotionally disturbing. Through the output of an QRNG, five seconds after pressing the key, a random image is selected, and displayed, by the computer from a database with an equal amount of neutral and emotional images. Monitoring physiological factors such as heart rate and/or skin resistance can be used to investigate whether the test subject unconsciously senses what is coming before the time that the image is selected by the QRNG. This sensing the future has indeed been demonstrated in these kind of presentiment experiments. Read Dean Radin’s 2004 presentiment experiment research publication. His experiment is also extensively discussed in my book.
The warden and the prisoner
Garret’s idea was that if a machine with a QRNG built-in had any consciousness, it would probably find it unpleasant to be turned off, and, like those human subjects, it would have a presentiment of it. In those last few seconds before shutdown, it’s QRNG would respond with a measurable deviation in the generated series of zeros and ones.
The unpredictable switching on and off of the device with the QRNG was done by a second QRNG, the warden. It’s victim, the device with the QRNG 1, is the prisoner. The generated zeros and ones from warden and prisoner were both recorded. The whole device had been extensively tested for correct functioning, ‘null’ tests had been done, so, the experiment could begin. Expectations were tense. The device was switched on at the end of the day and the results would be viewed the next morning.
And lo and behold, the next morning it turned out that the ‘prisoner’ had indeed reacted every time shortly before the fundamentally unpredictable times when the ‘warden’ took out the ‘prisoner’. Statistically significant in a way that the result could not be ignored. It could not be considered as an accidental glitch in the experimental set-up. Had they perhaps made a discovery here that would stir up a lot of controversy around the world in universities and labs investigating consciousness and its effects? It was wise to wait a little longer and let the set-up run another night. The second day the outcome was an even stronger indication of presentiment of the prisoner. The third night again yielded the same result, the prisoner every time shortly before being shutdown reacting by producing a significantly deviating series of zeros and ones .
The serious scientific approach
Now it got really interesting. It became possible that a serious publication in scientific journals was in the offing. But in that case there are strict conditions attached to the test procedures. Does the length of the interval between off and on switching affect the outcome for example? The frequency of the generated zeros and ones maybe? The way it was turned off and on, perhaps? The experimenters turned the dials, doubled the frequency and then waited another night for the result. The result was now that the deviations in the prisoner’s behavior were shown no longer. Then they halved the frequency. Again no reaction of the prisoner any more. At last they reset the frequency to its original value. Again, the result remained zero negative. The effect was gone.
What had changed?
Mertz’s suspicion, and mine too, is that the moment the experimenters started to behave ‘really’ scientifically, their unconscious expectations changed. In other words, that the expectations of the experimenters early in the experiment, when uninhibited natural open curiosity played an important role and academic scientific demonstrability was less important, had changed into academic goals. It was no longer play but serious science. When they were still ‘playing’ the experimenters’ expectations influenced the outcome of the QRNG’s quantum process, the prisoner, in such a way that it changed significantly in the short time before the guard evicted the prisoner.
In my opinion the minds of the experimenters did two things. First it premonited the shut down of the prisoner by the warden, second it then influenced the prisoner REG to produce a sequence of bits outside the normally evenly distributed values.
Isn’t it panpsychism?
Panpsychism – all matter is conscious – is becoming more popular among philosophers and physicists. Too bad for them that the guard and prisoner experiment turned out so disappointingly at the moment stricter research methods were applied. But I suspect anyhow that consciousness, and in particular the expectations of the researchers, played a significant role here.